Marinated in anguish, sexual humiliation, animal cruelty and death, Michael Haneke returns with his most challenging film, after US version “Funny Games”.Haneke shot this film in crisp black and white and set in a small village in northern Germany, 1913-1914.
Filmed like a miraculously preserved aging photograph and superbly acted, Haneke delivered the film despite the formality and thematic precision. He also serve it with rigorous compositions, measured pacing and potent symbolism. Although the pace is slow but the film density will endures you into the craves of curiosity.
Narrated by an old man recalling his days as the village schoolteacher (Christian Friedel), the story begins with a doctor (Rainer Bock) crashing from his horse by a tripwire. Then the baron’s (Ulrich Tukur) son Sigi (Fion Mutert) is missing and then founded hang upside down with bruises. Pets are killed. Cabbages are beheaded. Women are humiliated. And again, children are abused while being forced to wear a white ribbon of “purity”.
Haneke is here in his element, applying meticulously controlled technique to heated hostilities. The coldness burns, the smarts dialogue, and the regulated violence half-glimpsed. A scalpel slash to the mind’s eye. One subplot even offers a very modest romance betwen the schooltheacher and the young nanny Eva (Leonie Benesch). While the thoughtful and stark voiceover, shimmering visuals suggest dream and allegory. Lessons can be learned from this strange community cocooned in the mists of time and memory.
So it’s hard to fault this remarkable movie from Europe’s most revered modern director, a film that feels too superior to be called anything other than a masterpiece. Then again, superior is the word. The only thing that makes The White Ribbon gleam a little coldly is that you sometimes get the feeling that’s exactly what its maker thinks it is, too.
Haneke’s The White Ribbon finally won Palme d’Or in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival and won the best foreign language at 67th Golden Globe Awards. He marks the ascendance of a major filmmaker to the rank of greatness.